Every month I tell myself that I will type up my challenge posts as soon as I am done making the challenge. Or, you know, very shortly thereafter. And yet here I am again, just like every month, the night before the posting date, typing up my post.
The May 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Emma of CookCraftGrow and Jenny of Purple House Dirt. They chose to challenge everyone to make a Chocolate Marquise. The inspiration for this recipe comes from a dessert they prepared at a restaurant in Seattle.
This challenge was actually quite a doozy - both Emma and Jenny are professionals, having met in pastry school and worked in fancy restaurants, and the challenge that they selected definitely intimidated more than a few of us daring bakers. But, in addition to being professional pastry chefs, Jenny and Emma are also really cool people who were able to explain each step of the multi-step dessert in such a way that allowed us all to feel like, well, real pastry chefs!
This was a long one, and this post will rely mostly on the photos to tell the tale, so it might be a little different from my usual posts, but sit back and enjoy the creation of this amazing dessert.
Marquise on meringue, as the dessert is called, has two main components - the marquise and the meringue. As the name suggests. The marquise, which I had never even heard of, is a frozen mousse type of dessert, which takes a little bit of time and quite a few steps to prepare, but which is absolutely delicious.
It starts with chocolate base, which, of course, starts with chocolate. The purer the better. Our hostesses recommended no less than 70% cacao. I found 100%.
Warmed heavy cream is poured over the chocolate to melt it, then it is combined with corn syrup, cocoa powder, spices and some butter.
The whole thing is then mixed together to make a smooth chocolate base to flavor the marquise (mousse).
Yes, I realize that I said smooth and that this photo makes it look anything but... I really thought I'd messed something up... but it actually felt completely smooth, despite how it looked... so I just set it aside and hoped for the best...
Chocolate base done, it was time to make the other components of the marquise. It began with eggs. Many eggs. Half a batch of the recipe called for 6 egg yolks and two whole eggs, which went into the mixer.
After many minutes, the eggs turned very light and fluffy, like this:
While the eggs were beating, I was preparing a simple syrup on the stove, using little more than sugar, water and my trusty candy thermometer.
The syrup was then poured into the still-beating eggs, and the KitchenAid continued its workout, whipping the whole mixture together for another ten minutes or so.
Chocolate base complete, eggs/syrup mixture whipping, it was time to prepare the last component of the marquise - whipped cream. I am very lucky to have received the coolest gift ever for Christmas this past year, which actually allowed me to whip the cream while my stand mixer was otherwise engaged - an immersion blender with a whisk attachment. It actually has other fun tools, too, but in this case, the whisk attachment allowed me to whip cream in a separate bowl while the KitchenAid did its thing. Which was awesome.
And now all of the components for the marquise were ready.
The chocolate was mixed in with the egg mixture.
(*phew* - the chocolate totally smoothed out!)
Then the whipped cream was carefully folded in.
At this point, the marquise is ready to be spread into a parchment lined pan and frozen. Also at this point, the four and a half month old baby has had enough of being patient while mama played in the kitchen and demanded my full attention. Requiring me to leave my sink looking like this:
The next morning was Sunday, Mother's Day, and I set ahead preparing the other components of the dessert so that I could bring everything over to my in-laws' house as a special dessert for our Mother's Day dinner.
I mentioned above that the two main components of the dessert are the marquise and the meringue. There were also two other make-ahead components that are plated with the dessert - spiced nuts and caramel sauce.
The spiced nuts were surprisingly easy to make. Nuts (the recipe called for almonds, little miss requested pecans, so I used both) were tossed in a mixture of beaten egg white, sugar and spices - cinnamon and a sprinkle of cayenne pepper is what I chose.
The nuts are then turned out onto a baking sheet and baked for about 30 minutes.
While it looked a bit odd coming out of the oven, they tasted fantastic. Note for future reference, though - pecans cook faster than almonds. Next time, cook them separately.
Next I tackled the caramel sauce. The recipe provided my Emma and Jenny was for a tequila caramel sauce, which sounded so decadent. I, however, do not have tequila in the house. And I generally don't cook with alcohol, either, between pregnancy, nursing, and having young kids in the house. So I chose to make a cinnamon caramel sauce instead.
Once again, some sugar, some water and the trusty candy thermometer. Add some cinnamon and some heavy cream, and voila!
The final element that I needed to prepare in order to be prepared to actually serve this dessert after dinner that night was the meringue. I have made meringue before, but the recipe called for a different style of meringue than I usually make. In this version, egg whites (left over from all of those yolks used in the marquise) and sugar are heated double boiler style over simmering water until the sugar is totally incorporated and the egg whites are warmed through. While being mixed by hand.
Slimy. But fun
The egg whites are then whipped to stiff peaks.
At this point, I was ready to pack up the frozen marquise, the spiced nuts, the caramel sauce and prepared meringue and head over to the in-laws' for dinner.
After dinner, it was finally time to combine all of the elements.
We removed the marquise from the freezer a few minutes before we were ready to begin plating everything, then cut it into individual sized portions.
The meringue was then spooned onto a baking tray.
The recipe calls for the meringue to be torched, but I don't have a torch, nor do the in-laws, so we stuck it under the broiler. Unfortunately, me being totally nervous preparing this dessert in front of an audience and trying to make sure not to forget any of the components (and not realizing quite how strong my in-laws' broiler is!), the meringue got a bit scorched.
The squares of marquise were rolled in cocoa powder (I did a combination of powdered sugar and cocoa powder), placed onto the (blackened) meringue pillows, then the plate was decorated with the caramel sauce and spiced nuts.
Holy yumminess. Even the scorched meringue was delicious. Everyone was super impressed, both by the look and taste of this dessert. The flavors and textures went together so well, and made for a totally amazing and completely impressive dessert.
And the leftover marquise has sat in the freezer ever since, and makes a super yummy dessert, even just with some whipped cream. Or some more of that caramel sauce. Or both.
Emma and Jenny, I cannot thank you enough for this amazing challenge. You really brought out the best in all of us this month, and I am so impressed with myself for having actually made a fancy-restaurant caliber dessert!
I highly recommend taking a look at the impressive and beautiful work of the other daring bakers on this challenge. You can check them out here.
3 days ago